human & social rights

Sustainable Human & Social Development – Reloaded !

2014-04-13:  Further to the Post, dated 2013-01-13

There are many essential qualities and features belonging to and representative of a Sustainable Human Environment (including the Social, Built, Virtual and Economic Environments).  As discussed here many times before … Accessibility-for-All is one fundamental attribute, under Social and Legal Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

Another fundamental attribute … Urban Resilience … is now moving centre stage in the world of International Construction Research & Practice.  WHEN, not if … this concept is fully elaborated and understood, it will have a profound impact on All Tasks, Activities and Types of Performance in the Human Environment … under All Aspects of Sustainable Human and Social Development.

After working for many years on Climate Change, particularly Adaptation … it was quite natural for me to encounter the concept of Resilience.  But the aim of a newly established Core Task Group within CIB (International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction) is to widen out this concept to also include Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis), Complex Humanitarian Emergencies, (e.g. regional famines, mass human migrations), Extreme Man-Made Events (e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks), and Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident) … to set down Resilience Benchmarks … and to produce Resilience Performance Indicators.  An imposing challenge !

AND … as Urbanization is proceeding at such a rapid pace in the BRICS Countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) and throughout the rest of the Southern Hemisphere … ‘practical’ and ‘easily assimilated’ trans-disciplinary output from this CIB Task Group is urgently required.  In other words, the work of the Task Group must not be permitted to become an exercise in long drawn out pure academic research … the clear focus must be on ‘real’ implementation … As Soon As Is Practicable !!

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A New and Updated Groundwork …

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SUSTAINABLE DESIGN

The ethical design response, in resilient built and/or wrought form, to the concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

SUSTAINABLE HUMAN & SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the human and social rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from the next seven future generations.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and augmented by UN OHCHR Letter, dated 6 June 2013, on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

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The CITY (as Region)

A geographical region, with open and flexible boundaries, consisting of:

(a)              An interwoven, densely constructed core (built environment) ;

(b)              A large resident population of more than 500,000 people (social environment) ;

(c)              A supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources (cultivated landscape) ;

together functioning as …

(i)                 a complex living system (analogous to, yet different from, other living systems such as ecosystems and organisms) ;     and

(ii)               a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of individual welfare, and social wellbeing for all of its inhabitants.

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SOCIAL WELLBEING

A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

INDIVIDUAL WELFARE

A person’s general feeling of health, happiness and fulfilment.

HUMAN HEALTH

A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.     [World Health Organization]

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SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT

The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

The social environment shapes, binds together, and directs the future development of the built and virtual environments.

BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Anywhere there is, or has been, a man-made or wrought (worked) intervention by humans in the natural environment, e.g. cities, towns, villages, rural settlements, service utilities, transport systems, roads, bridges, tunnels, and cultivated lands, lakes, rivers, coasts, seas, etc … including the virtual environment.

VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT

A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

The virtual and built environments continue to merge into a new augmented reality.

ECONOMIC ENVIRONMENT

The intricate web of real and virtual human commercial activity – operating at micro and macro-economic levels – which facilitates, supports, but sometimes hampers or disrupts, human interaction in the social environment.

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And So To Work !!

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2014 Zero Project Accessibility Conference – More Hot Air !!

2014-02-07:  Another year, and here we go again !   Except this time around … the bullshit, hot air and ‘blah-blah-blah’ must end !!   Certainly here, and at every other opportunity as well … I will demand to hear far less talk, but to see a lot more effective action on this important issue of human and social rights !!!

Just before Christmas (2013), I received a personal invitation to attend the Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All, which will take place in a few weeks time on 27 & 28 February … at the United Nations Offices in Vienna (one of my favourite cities), Austria.  You can read all the details about the conference here: http://zeroproject.org/conference/    The following is my polite and restrained reply to that invitation, dated 14 January 2014 …

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RE: 2014 Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All

To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you very much for your invitation to attend the upcoming Zero Project Conference on ‘Accessibility’ … but, having carefully examined the Draft Conference Programme, I must decline … and will not be attending.

Concerning Accessibility for All … the biggest problem within the European Accessibility Community is that we are all talk and no action.  The shameful reality is that the Human Environment (including the social - built - virtual - economic environments) remains emphatically inaccessible throughout Europe and far beyond !

Even though the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is in place, ratified by the European Union and many of the EU Member States … and International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment’ has been fully adopted … the first conference session is still asking the basic question “What is Accessibility ?”

Instead of a detailed examination of how the elaborate Accessibility Agenda contained in Articles 9, 11 and 19 of the UN CRPD can be properly and satisfactorily implemented, in an independently monitored (Art. 33), harmonized and culturally-sensitive manner across the globe … you will be presenting an ‘Access’ Beauty Pageant.  Istanbul, a beautiful city with which I am very familiar, is only at the earliest stages of awareness about accessibility … and the recently published Hong Kong Fire Safety Code completely ignores fire safety for building occupants with disabilities !   Ireland is determined to delay ratification of the UN CRPD for as long as possible, and will refuse to ratify the Convention’s Optional Protocol … and I also know that implementation of the CRPD is meeting stiff resistance within the Institutions of the European Union.

Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) receive no attention in the Zero Project Conference Programme … even though it took a lot of effort to ensure that the innovative and forward-looking Preamble Paragraph (g) was incorporated in the Convention.  Within the rapidly evolving SDG drafting process, it is still not properly understood why and how Accessibility for All is a fundamental attribute of a Sustainable and Resilient Human Environment.

Concerning Mainstreaming … I describe a typical ‘real’ situation on our Technical Blog ( www.cjwalsh.ie/2012/11/new-legal-normative-environment-for-accessibility-in-europe/ ) … but this constant annoying struggle, and discussion on finding common approaches to its successful resolution, are absent from the Programme.

For us, attendance at the 2014 Zero Project Conference would be a waste of scarce organization resources.  For Europe, however, the Conference represents a much greater waste … a magnificent opportunity missed !

Regards,

C. J. Walsh, B Arch FRIAI MIBCI MIFS MIFireE – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller.

  • Member, CIB Task Group 87: ‘Urban Resilience – Benchmarking & Metrics’.
  • Member, CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’.
  • Chair, CIB W14 Research Working Group IV: ‘Structural Reliability & Fire-Induced Progressive Damage’.
  • Member, CIB Working Commission 108: ‘Climate Change & the Built Environment’.
  • Member, EU Expert Working Group on Urban Environment Research.
  • Member, EU EYPD Expert Group on Accessibility.

Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. (Ireland & Italy) and Sürdürülebilir Tasarım Tic.Ltd.Şti. (Turkey).

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This 2014 Zero Project Conference on Accessibility for All is divorced from Reality … and the Real Needs of many vulnerable people in all of our communities !

Without an Effectively Accessible Human Environment (including the social, built, virtual and economic environments) … access to many other human and social rights, e.g. education, housing, medicine, voting, etc., is prevented and unjustly barred.

Building Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

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‘Person-Centred’ Design & Climate Change Policy Development

2013-07-01:   Sustainable Design Solutions are …

  • Person-Centred ;
  • Reliability-Based ;    and most importantly
  • Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.

‘Person-Centredness’ is a core value of Sustainable Human & Social Development … an essential principle in Sustainable Design … an indispensable support framework for Sustainability-related Policy and Decision-making … and an invaluable indicator when monitoring Sustainability Implementation.

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Why so because ?

It is the mid-1990′s … in the centre of Dublin City.

Imagine, if you will, a very large historical building having a civic, justice-related function … and also an enormous Energy Bill.  As described in a much earlier post, dated 2009-02-20, and the series of posts which followed on the subject of Building Energy Rating (BER) … we found that the most effective and practical remedy for this gaping and continuously haemorrhaging ‘energy’ wound was to approach the problem though the building’s users, their perception of thermal comfort, and International Standard ISO 7730.

The ‘real’ reduction in energy consumption, the ‘real’ increase in the building’s energy efficiency, and the ‘real’ improvements in building user / employee comfort and morale … were astounding !

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'Person-Centredness' (Concept 1)At a 1999 Strasbourg Conference in France … I delivered the following Paper …

Person-Centredness’ of the Built Environment – A Core Value of Sustainable Design

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INTRODUCTION from that Paper …

These are interesting times;  the benefits of modern technology have bypassed and long overtaken the stirring thoughts, visions and catch cries of Architects at the beginning of the 20th Century.  However, at this time in Europe, we must now ask ourselves some difficult questions …

“What should be the Design Agenda for the ‘Built Environment’ in the new millennium ?”

“Do we actually understand the ‘real’ needs and desires of ‘real’ people in an inclusive society ?”

It is Sustainable Design – the art and science of the design, supervision of related construction/de-construction, and maintenance of sustainability in the Built Environment – which is currently generating a quantum leap in the forward evolution of a more coherent design philosophy.

Principle 1 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development states …

‘Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development.  They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.’

Deeply embedded, therefore, within this philosophy is the concept of ‘person-centredness’, i.e. that core design value which places real people at the centre of creative concerns, and gives due consideration to their health, safety, and welfare in the Built Environment – it includes such specific performance criteria as:  a sensory rich and accessible (mobility, usability, communications and information) environment;  fire safety;  thermal comfort;  air, light and visual quality;  protection from ionizing / electromagnetic radiation;  nuisance noise abatement;  etc.  An important ‘person-centred’ design aid is the questionnaire survey, which is not only a very valuable source of information, but formalizes meaningful consultation between practitioners and end users.

SDI’s Guideline Framework on achieving equality of opportunity and social inclusion, which is based on a strategy produced by Directorate-General V of the European Commission, shows how further essential elements of ‘social wellbeing’ also relate to person-centredness;  these include partnership between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency and openness.

This paper explores the rational and legal basis for person-centredness of the Built Environment in Europe.  Fieldwork incorporating this innovative approach is also examined.  Finally, a body of principles – a European Charter – is outlined which aims to ensure that new construction works, and renovated existing buildings, perform reliably, are adaptable, accessible and responsive, ‘intelligently green’ (French: intelli-verdure), cost-effective and inherently sustainable.

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'Person-Centredness' (Concept 2).

CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION & MITIGATION POLICIES

AND BEFORE developing Climate Change Policies which will have such dramatic impacts on human populations, and their lifestyles, around the globe … perhaps those policies would be more effective, in the ‘real’ world and in the long-term … if we looked at the problem through the ‘eyes’ of people !

It will be worth taking a look at an interesting background paper produced by the World Bank in 2009 … whether you agree or disagree with the following statements …

“A lack of citizen understanding regarding the basics of climate science is an almost universal finding worldwide even though knowledge has increased over time.  Especially notable is confusion between the causes of climate change and ozone depletion, and confusion between weather and climate.”

“North Americans know far less about climate change than their counterparts in the developed world.”

“Accurate and complete understanding of information is not a prerequisite for concern.”

“Concern is widespread around the world, but it may also be inversely correlated with the wealth and carbon footprint of a nation, or the socio-economic ‘class’ within a nation.”

“In some studies, more informed respondents reported less concern or sense of responsibility towards climate change.”

“People stop paying attention to global climate change when they realize that there is no easy solution for it.  Many people judge as serious only those problems for which they think action can be taken.”

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World Bank Paper 4940: 'Cognitive & Behavioural Challenges in Responding to Climate Change' (2009) - Title PagePolicy Research Working Paper No.4940 (May 2009) – Kari Marie Norgaard

Cognitive & Behavioural Challenges in Responding to Climate Change (World Bank, 2009)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (290 Kb)

This World Bank Working Paper – prepared as a background paper to the World Bank’s World Development Report 2010: Development in a Changing Climate.  Policy Research Working Papers are posted on the Web at http://econ.worldbank.org

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World Bank Working Paper 4940 (2009) – ABSTRACT …

Climate scientists have identified global warming as the most important environmental issue of our time, but it has taken over 20 years for the problem to penetrate the public discourse in even the most superficial manner.  While some nations have done better than others, no nation has adequately reduced emissions and no nation has a base of public citizens that are sufficiently socially and politically engaged in response to climate change.  This paper summarizes international and national differences in levels of knowledge and concern regarding climate change, and the existing explanations for the worldwide failure of public response to climate change, drawing from psychology, social psychology and sociology.  On the whole, the widely presumed links between public access to information on climate change and levels of concern and action are not supported.  The paper’s key findings emphasize the presence of negative emotions in conjunction with global warming (fear, guilt, and helplessness), and the process of emotion management and cultural norms in the construction of a social reality in which climate change is held at arms length.  Barriers in responding to climate change are placed into three broad categories:  1) psychological and conceptual;  2) social and cultural;  and 3) structural (political economy).  The author provides policy considerations and summarizes the policy implications of both psychological and conceptual barriers, and social and cultural barriers. An annotated bibliography is included.

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Is anybody learning yet ?

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Upcoming Building Research Workshop at Galway University

2013-06-08:  Looking forward to some serious, collaborative and multi-disciplinary discussions on the day … and a barrel of laughs in the process (!!) …

The Informatics Research Unit for Sustainable Engineering (IRUSE) in the Department of Civil Engineering … and The Ryan Institute for Environmental, Marine and Energy Research … both at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) … have jointly organized a 1-Day National Research Networking Workshop which will take place on Monday, 24 June 2013.

The NUIG ‘blurb’ for the day states … “Considering the importance of aggressive energy-efficiency measures in the Building Sector, together with the requirements for a safe, healthy, comfortable (and accessible) Built Environment … this NUIG Workshop will explore the topic of Integrated Modelling and Performance of the Built Environment.”

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I was very pleased to receive an invitation to make a Presentation at this prestigious event …

‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design’  -  My Presentation Abstract

Fire Engineering … involves much more than mere compliance with building regulations and codes … whose fire safety objectives are limited, and whose performance requirements are sometimes inadequate and always minimal.  More problematically … a fundamental conflict is mushrooming between Safe Sustainable Climate Resilient Building Design and Conventional Fire Consultancy Practice.

However … Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions are:

  • Reliability-based ;
  • Person-centred ;

and above all

  • Adapted to Local Context and Heritage (fr: le Patrimoine – see ICOMOS 2011) … geography, climate (incl. change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, and economy, etc., etc.

This Presentation will discuss very rich collaborative research potential in the following areas …

  1. Creative Fire Engineering Concepts and Building Systems
  2. Fire-Induced Progressive Damage in Buildings
  3. Human Behaviour and Abilities in a Fire Situation
  4. Building Design for Firefighter Safety
  5. BMS – Fire Modelling – BIM

Research Output must be targeted at practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings … with actual user/construction performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !

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If anybody out there is interested in attending this NUIG Research Workshop … please contact Ms. Magdalena Hajdukiewicz (IRUSE) at: hajdukiewicz1@nuigalway.ie

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POST-EVENT UPDATE:  2013-06-27 …

While it was difficult to keep the Workshop Programme, involving a series of short 10-minute presentation slots, on track … discussions during the day were engaging, energetic and extensive.

I happily look forward to a successful and collaborative outcome from the day … Multi-Disciplinary Teams producing Trans-Disciplinary Research Output … which is geared towards practical implementation in ‘real’ buildings, with actual construction and building user performance carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored !

Galway University (NUIG) Workshop Programme & Presentation Abstracts

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (193 Kb)

Galway University (NUIG) Built Environment Research Networking Workshop - 24 June 2013

Colour photograph showing the venue for the IRUSE & The Ryan Institute (Galway University – NUIG) Built Environment Research Networking Workshop, which was held in the New Engineering Building on 24 June 2013. Seen here is Dr. Harald Berresheim during his presentation on ‘The Self-Cleansing Capacity of Our Atmosphere – Limitations on Local to Global Scales’. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2013-06-24. Click to enlarge.

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CJ Walsh Presentation: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design’

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.78 MB)

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However … and especially since the Workshop had been organized by IRUSE (the ‘SE’ standing for ‘Sustainable Engineering’) … it was indeed very strange to have to clarify the following points, among others:

1.   The Minimum Life Cycle for a Sustainable Building is 100 Years … not 50 or 60 years !

2.   Future Research Collaboration should be targeted at the multi-aspect ‘Sustainability Agenda’.  The word ‘green’ (where only environmental aspects of sustainability are considered) should be actively discouraged, if not banned entirely !

3.   With regard to Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … two high-level performance indicators which have been developed with the aim of protecting human health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ … are …

      -   Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;

      -   Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and should at no time exceed 800 ppm.

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Galway University’s New Engineering Building

Concerning the substantive difference in meaning and scope between ‘sustainable’ and ‘green’ … there is, perhaps, no better way to illustrate this difference than to observe the atrocious ‘Accessibility-for-All’ Performance (Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations !) of the critically acclaimed (?!?) and award winning (?!?) New Engineering Building in Galway University … which flaunts its ‘über-green’ credentials …

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (1)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (2)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (3)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (4)

Galway University's New Engineering Building - Inadequate Accessibility-for-All (5)

Can you believe what’s in those photographs ??   More importantly … can you believe what’s not in those photographs ????   In such a recently completed building … “incredible” is the only answer to both questions.

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Under International Law … lack of accessibility, or inadequate accessibility, to the social, built, virtual and economic environments … IS a denial and infringement of the basic human rights of people with activity limitations.  It also limits, needlessly and unnecessarily, the numbers of potential users of those environments … which makes no sense at all.

My strong recommendation to Galway University … is to immediately commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant to give the university campus a thorough going over !   You are failing the campus user population … the local community in Galway … and Irish society generally.

My even stronger recommendation to the Architects for the New Engineering BuildingRMJM Architects (Robert Matthew Johnson-Marshall) in Scotland, and Taylor Architects in Ireland … is to always commission a Competent Accessibility Consultant on all of your projects … small, medium and large … because you haven’t a bull’s notion about this important dimension of building performance !!

And remember folks … Accessibility has been clearly specified in the new International Standard ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

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SDSN’s Action Agenda for Sustainable Development & SDG’s ?!?

2013-05-23:  The U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, announced the launch of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) on 9 August 2012.

UN SDSN is structured around 12 Thematic Groups of scientific and technical experts – from academia, civil society, and the private sector – who work in support of Sustainable Development Problem Solving at local, national, and global scales … and to identify and highlight best practices.  They also provide technical support to the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Logo

The world has changed profoundly since the year 2000, when the UN Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s) were adopted by the United Nations.  Four critical shifts make the coming fifteen-year period, 2015-2030, different from the MDG period, 2000-2015:  (i) a drastically higher human impact on the physical Earth;  (ii) rapid technological change;  (iii) increasing inequality;  and (iv) a growing diffusion and complexity of governance.

These problems will expand, dangerously beyond our control, without an urgent and radical transformation in how we organize society.  The world now needs an operational Sustainable Development Framework which can mobilize all key actors (national & local governments, civil society, business, science and academia) in every country to move away from the Business-as-Usual (BaU) Trajectory towards a Sustainable Development (SD) Path.  This Framework and the SDG’s identify the main objectives and strategies needed to transform from BaU to SD.

The purpose of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) is to help translate global aspirations into practical actions.  In this regard, SDSN has subscribed to the ‘Rio+20′ Agreement that the SDG’s should be ‘action-oriented, concise and easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature and universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development, and respecting national policies and priorities’.

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SDI’s Comments on the Draft ‘Action Agenda for Sustainable Development & Sustainable Development Goals’ …

[ Submitted by e-mail, yesterday (2013-05-22), to the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network.]

1.   The problems with this Draft Document, dated 7 May 2013, are fundamental and profound.  Our Organization will be happy to assist the Network (SDSN) in improving the text.

2.   At this time, however, we would like to bring to your attention some urgent overarching issues:

  • Amend the Title … refer directly to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  See above.
  • As drafted, the text does not show that … or explain how … there is a robust Interdependence between the different Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Indeed, the scale and immediacy of the Sustainable Development Challenges are unprecedented.  The Network (SDSN) must now, therefore, take the brave and difficult step of placing the Sustainable Development Goals in order of priority.  Do not allow yourselves to be shackled by the approach taken in the earlier Millennium Development Goals !
  • In this Document, All of the texts dealing with ‘Governance’ are ambiguous, weak and embarrassingly inadequate.  References to the Institutional, Political, Legal and Judicial Aspects of ‘Governance’ are both necessary, and required.
  • The word ‘access’ is used very often and very generally in the Document.  BUT … in order for People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) to ‘access’ facilities and services in the Built (including Virtual), Social and Economic Environments, and to be included and participate fully in their local communities … it is an ESSENTIAL prerequisite that those Environments are effectively ACCESSIBLE-FOR-ALL !   This concept is not mentioned once in the Document … a very serious omission.

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Updates:  2013-06-07 & 2013-07-22 …

The SDSN Final Report is Fundamentally and Profoundly INADEQUATE !

Immediately below that … see Extracts from the Letter of Navanethem Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, dated 6 June 2013 … addressed to All Permanent Missions in New York and Geneva.

UN SDSN's 'An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development' - Final Report Cover6 June 2013 – Final Report

UN SDSN’s ‘An Action Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (Final)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (1.91 MB)

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” Twenty years ago this June, the World Conference on Human Rights convened at Vienna to forge a new vision for our world, one founded on a recognition of the fundamental interdependence between democracy, development and human rights.  In the tail of a blood-stained and deprived century, the whispered call was for dignity, equality, justice, rights.  And what began as a murmur in Vienna grew in volume and force with each global conference: Copenhagen and Beijing in 1995, Durban in 2001, New York in 2005 and again in 2010, and Rio in 2012.  In recent years, the murmur has become a roar, echoing across societies on all continents, from victims denied redress, older persons denied respect, youth denied hope, and activists demanding a better way.  From this call, we have learned much about the imperatives of sustainable development.  There will be no development without equality, no progress without freedom, no peace without justice, no sustainability without human rights.”

“All that is required is the political will to move beyond the failed approaches of the past, to chart a fresh course, and to embrace a new paradigm of development built on the foundation of human rights, equality and sustainability.”

1.     The Post-2015 Agenda must be built on a human rights-based approach, in both process and substance.

2.     The new agenda must address both sides of the development challenge – that is freedom from both fear and want.

3.     The imperative of equality must underpin the entire framework.

4.     Marginalized, disempowered and excluded groups, previously locked out of development, must have a place in the new agenda.

5.     We must commit to ending poverty.

6.     The new framework must advance a healthy environment, as an underlying determinant of internationally guaranteed human rights.

7.     The Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to an international order in which human rights can be fully realized.  Similarly, the UN Declaration on the Right to Development mandates international reform to ensure human rights-based policy coherence at the international level.  In the wake of the global financial, food, climate and energy crises, and in the context of growing disparities and historic governance failures at all levels, the credibility and effectiveness of the Post-2015 Agenda will therefore depend also on the degree to which it addresses this pressing need for human rights-based reforms at international level.

8.     The Post-2015 Agenda should be universally applicable.

9.     The Post-2015 Agenda must include a strong accountability framework.

10.   In the wake of the devastating global financial crisis, and revelations of abusive business practices in all regions, it is clear that responsibility for human rights-based development in the Post-2015 period must extend to actors in the private sector, as well.

6 June 2013 – United Nations OHCHR, Geneva

‘Human Rights in the Post-2015 Agenda’ – Letter from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to All Permanent Missions in New York and Geneva

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (642 Kb)

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SDI Practice Announcement – New 32 Storey Hotel in China

2013-04-02:  Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) is pleased to announce that its Managing Director, C.J. Walsh, has been invited to be ‘Project Design Architect’ / ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ for a New 32 Storey Hotel in Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC).

He will have responsibility for the Project’s Architectural Concept Design and General Schematic Design … including the overall architectural character and profile of primary exterior surfaces.

Project Approximate Value = € 65 Million (Euros) … excluding interior design, finishes and furnishing (which could end up doubling, or even tripling, the overall project value).

Sustainable Design International Ltd.  maintains a strict practice policy of Client Confidentiality.

[ If this Type of Professional Design Service Appeals to You, or Your Organization - Contact Us Immediately ! ]

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2012 ‘Understanding China’ Policy Briefing - Friends of Europe & EuroChambres

An estimated One Billion People will be living in China’s cities by 2030.  This large-scale and very rapid urbanization demands that a sustainable transformation of their urban built, social, economic and institutional environments commences Today – not at some notional point in a far distant future.

Furthermore … replicating a European approach to sustainable design and construction in other regions of the world is doomed to failure.  Urban Transformation in China must be adapted to Local Geography, Climate, Climate Change, Social Needs, Cultures, Economy, and Local Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding).  With European support and collaboration … China must, and will, find its own way.

Greening China's Cities of Tomorrow (2012) - Report CoverGreening China’s Cities of Tomorrow (Spring 2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (4.42 Mb)

Report on a One-Day China Advisory Council Roundtable, co-organized by Friends of Europe and EuroChambres, which was held in Brussels on 8 March 2012.  This event was part of an ‘Understanding China’ Programme (mid-2009 to mid-2012), co-funded by the European Commission.

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2013 Asian Development Bank (ADB) Guidebook: ‘Increasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure’ 

This Guide describes a practical approach to bridge the gap between theoretical analyses of climate change impacts and the planning decisions that need to be made by city authorities and utility managers to increase climate change resilience of the water sector in the city of  Wuhan, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China (PRC).  It focuses on answering the questions currently being asked by city planners and managers all over the world, as follows:

  • What changes might be caused by climate change ?
  • How will these changes affect services and utilities ?
  • What can we do now to prepare for them ?

The long lead time required to plan, finance, build, and commission city infrastructure facilities means that decision makers cannot wait for more detailed data on the effects of future climate change, especially those relating to local circumstances, but must make investment decisions based on what is known now and what can be readily predicted.  An important principle in this kind of ‘robust’ decision-making is provided by the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  tenet that adaptation investments, which move a city’s infrastructure toward sustainable development (such as providing safe drinking water and better sanitary conditions), are justifiable even without climate change.

This Guide is arranged in clear steps to provide direction and information for similar exercises in other areas.  Having grown out of a specific locality and its needs, the principles and solutions developed in this guide are founded on real world situations and problems …

ADB Guidebook: 'Increasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure' (2013) - Cover PageIncreasing Climate Change Resilience of Urban Water Infrastructure (ADB, 2013)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.31 Mb)

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***  THIS TALL BUILDING IN YUNNAN PROVINCE  &  SIMILAR COMPLEX ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS  ***

Working within the professional constraints of ‘client confidentiality’ … it is possible to have a general discussion about current building design, construction and operation issues in an international sector which is operating, more and more, beyond national borders … without adequate, or very often any, national and local regulation.  By ‘regulation’, I mean a flexible system of building-related legislation which is operated in conjunction with mandatory and effective technical control.

In order to cope with today’s complex built environment and the enormous variation in the size and scale of construction projects … a ‘flexible’ mix of functional, performance and prescriptive legal requirements is the sharpest and most appropriate instrument.

And you can forget the hype about performance-based building codes coming out of the USA … hot air, and much ado about little !

Of course, the biggest issue of all is the competence of those individuals who work in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), i.e. technical controllers.  Even in the most developed economies of the world … there are many occasions when the level of individual incompetence in an AHJ is astounding … and institutional arrangements within the AHJ itself are a mess, i.e. the AHJ is not fit for purpose.

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1.  Sustainable Design – Design Process Efficiency & Proper Preparation for Construction

A tremendous amount of waste is associated with and generated by the processes of conventional building design, construction and operation.  There is a more up-to-date and efficient way of doing things … an essential way for Sustainable Design … and it’s called Building Information Modelling (BIM) !

Furthermore … consider, for a moment, just the initial list of Specialist Consultants who will be engaged directly by the Chinese Client when the project’s conceptual design has reached a sufficiently developed stage.  How can all of these individuals and organizations – listed in the revised and agreed Project Design Agreement – obtain accurate and reliable ‘real time’ information about the rapidly evolving project from a central design library / information database … then feed their new work back into the centre without unnecessary delay ?   How, next, can everyone else who needs to know, be updated with the new design input … again, without delay ?   And perhaps, these consultants may also be based in different countries … working in very different time zones …

  • Building Information Modelling (BIM) Consultant
  • Local Design Institute (LDI) … a local architectural practice which will produce the project’s working drawings, handle local spatial planning and building code approvals, carry out site inspections, and deal directly with construction organization(s), etc., etc.
  • Interior Design Consultant
  • Traffic / Parking Analysis Consultant
  • Curtain Wall Consultant (Curtain Wall, Skylights & Special Roof Structures)
  • Retail Market Analysis Consultant
  • Landscape Design Consultant
  • Quantity Surveying & Cost Estimating Consultant
  • Furniture Design Consultant
  • Geotechnical, Civil Engineering & Structural Engineering Consultant (including structural performance under fire and earthquake conditions, resistance to fire-induced progressive damage and disproportionate damage … and also including climate resilience)
  • Acoustic & Audio-Visual Design Consultant
  • Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing (MEP) Engineering Consultant
  • Integrated Building Automation & Management / Telecom / Security / Networking Consultant
  • Fire & Life-Safety Engineering Consultant
  • Water Feature Consultant
  • Wind Tunnel Test Consultant
  • Kitchen Equipment and Layout Design Consultant
  • Art, Artefact and Accessories Consultant & Procurement Services for Art, Artefacts, and Accessories
  • Tenant Storefront Design Consultant
  • Helicopter Landing Pad Design Consultant
  • Universal Design / Accessibility for All Consultant [including access to the building, electronic, information and communication technologies (EICT's), and services offered at the hotel ... and including fire safety, protection and evacuation for all]

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2.  The ‘Design Professional in Responsible Charge’ !

The Project Design Agreement requests that the Client receive advice on who might be the different Specialist Consultants listed above.  In addition, it will be necessary to demarcate the boundaries within which each Consultant will operate … and, where appropriate, to prescribe a design performance target (see below) for each speciality … which must be ‘realized’ in the completed and occupied building !

Recalling the many previous posts, here on this Technical Blog, concerning NIST’s 2005 & 2008 Recommendations on the 9-11 World Trade Centre Building Collapses in New York City‘somebody’ must ensure that the many individuals and organizations listed above – members of the Larger (2nd Stage) Design Team – use consistent design data and assumptions … must co-ordinate design documents and specifications to identify overlaps and eliminate gaps … must serve as ultimate liaison between the Client, the Local Design Institute, AHJ officials, and the Construction Organization(s) … and must ensure that everybody is on the same communication wavelength, and working towards the same objective in a trans-disciplinary manner.

That ‘Somebody’ … the Design Professional in Responsible Charge … must be the Project Design Architect !

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3.  Some Sustainable Design Performance Targets

Actual construction and building user performance shall be carefully (i.e. reliably and precisely) monitored … and independently verified …

A.   Basic Functional Requirements … the Building shall comply with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works – elaborated in Annex I of European Union (EU) Regulation No.305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down Harmonized Conditions for the Marketing of Construction Products and Repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC.

See my Post, dated 2011-09-13 … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2011/09/new-eu-construction-product-regulation-3052011-halleluiah/

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B.   Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) … Two high-level performance indicators have been developed with the aim of protecting Human Health, and are both now referenced in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’

      -   Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 Bq/m3 to 40 Bq/m3, but shall at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3 ;

      -   Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 parts per million (ppm) to 500 ppm – and shall at no time exceed 800 ppm.

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C.   Energy Conservation & Efficiency + A ‘Positive Energy’ Return + Assured Building User Thermal Comfort

See my Post, dated 2013-09-10 … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2013/09/passivhaus-standard-is-not-enough-in-new-building-projects/

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D.   Project-Specific Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Objectives

See my Post, dated 2014-04-20 … http://www.cjwalsh.ie/2014/04/sustainable-fire-engineering-design-targeting-mrv/

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‘Sustainability’ – New Part 11 in India’s National Building Code !

2013-03-17:  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day !!

Submissions on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Incorporation of a New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ had to arrive at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), in Dilli … by e-mail … no later than Friday last, 15 March 2013 …

Indian National Building Code Proposed New Part 11: 'Approach to Sustainability' - Cover Memo

Click to enlarge.

Indian NBC, Proposed Part 11 on ‘Sustainability’ – December 2012 Consultation

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Extract From Foreword (Page 7):

‘ Developed nations’ approach to sustainability generally concentrates on energy conservation through high technology innovations, and use of products, materials and designs with lower embodied energy.  Their green ratings are based on intent, which implies expert inputs and simulation.  The Indian construction industry will do better using our traditional wisdom and practices, building in harmony with nature through regional common knowledge, consuming as little as necessary, applying low cost technology innovations, using recycled materials, and recognizing performance (not intent) through easily measurable parameters wherever feasible.’

How Right They Are About Prioritizing ‘Real’ Performance !!

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And Just Before That Extract Above:

‘ The authentic (my insert !) Indian way of life is aparigraha (minimum possessions), conservation (minimum consumption), and recycling (minimum waste).  These three attributes are the guiding principles for sustainable buildings as well.  With these attributes and its rich heritage, India can make a substantial contribution in this field and eventually lead the world on the path of sustainability.’

An Overly Ambitious Target ?   Perhaps Not.

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SDI Supporting India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy …

We very much welcome this opportunity to make a Submission on India’s Draft Amendment No.1 to the 2005 National Building Code (SP 7:2005) concerning the Proposed Inclusion of a New Part 11 ‘Approach to Sustainability’.

This IS an important development for India … and it DOES mark a substantial contribution to this field, at international level.  We wish that other countries would follow your example … particularly China, the other mushrooming economies in South-East Asia, and the Arab Gulf States.

You may not be aware that Sustainable Design International (SDI) has been specializing in the theory and implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, and economic) since the mid-1990′s.

And, for example … in September 2007, we were invited to make a series of Keynote Presentations to 20 Senior National Decision-Makers, from both the public and private sectors, at a 2-Day Workshop which was organized for us in Lisboa, Portugal.  If invited, we would be delighted to repeat this valuable exercise in Dilli, Bengaluru, and other suitable venues in India.

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IF India is to lead the world on this particular track, i.e. Sustainable Buildings, a coherent philosophy must be outlined in the Proposed New Part 11 of the National Building Code, and a clear direction must also be given there to decision-makers, e.g. clients/client organizations, and designers.

Certain essential content must be included in Part 11.  With regard to an improved layout of Part 11, please review the attached  SDI Document: ‘SEED Building Life Cycle’ (PDF File, 55 Kb) .

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Because you have prioritized ‘real’ building performance over pre-construction design ‘intent’, it is appropriate to begin our comments here …

1.   Sustainability Performance Indicators

In order to prioritize ‘real’ performance, the monitoring of actual sustainability performance in completed and occupied buildings must be comprehensive, accurate and reliable.  Indicators of sustainability performance must, therefore, be included in all sections of the Proposed New Part 11.

Sustainability Performance Indicators provide important signposts for decision-making and design in many ways.  They can translate physical and social science knowledge into manageable units of information which facilitate the decision-making and design processes.  They can help to measure and calibrate progress towards sustainable development goals, and sectoral sustainability targets.  They can provide an early warning to prevent economic, social and environmental damage and harm.  They are also important tools to communicate ideas, thoughts and values because, as statisticians say: “We measure what we value, and value what we measure”.

Performance Indicators may be both quantitative and qualitative … but must cover all stages of the building process, i.e. project feasibility and performance specification, spatial planning, design, construction, management, operation, maintenance and servicing, de-construction, disposal, final site clean-up and sustainable repair.

While many, though not all, types of building performance can be successfully monitored using lightweight portable equipment … a certain number of monitoring devices must also be permanently installed in the building during construction.  A facility to reliably feed the output from these devices back to data collection points, on site and remote, must also be incorporated in the Building’s Intelligent Management System.

Management and collation of sustainability performance data must be reliable.  Uncertainty is always present.  Therefore, Statements of Uncertainty should always be attached to ‘reliable’ data.

Safety Factors should always be included when targeting critical ‘health and safety’ related types of performance.

Sustainability Performance Indicators must be directly comparable across different Global Regions … within Asia, across different countries … and within India, across different States.  A Balanced, Harmonized Core Set of Indian Performance Indicators should be quickly developed.  A Balanced ‘Local’ Set of Performance Indicators will always be necessary.

People tasked with monitoring sustainable building performance must be competent … and independent, i.e. be unconnected to client, design and construction organizations.

Specifically in relation to Energy Performance, the targets to be achieved in new buildings must be far more ambitious.  Please review the attached  SDI Document: ‘SEED Positive Energy Buildings’ (PDF File, 29 Kb) .

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2.   Properly Defining ‘Sustainable Development’

As currently drafted … Definition 2.26 Sustainable Development, on Page 13 of the Proposed New Part 11, is not only ambiguous, it is inadequate for India’s needs … and it is barely the first half of the full, correct definition …

Sustainable Development  is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  It contains within it two key concepts:

  • the concept of ‘needs’, in particular the essential needs of the world’s poor, to which overriding priority should be given ;  and
  • the idea of limitations imposed by the state of technology and social organization on the environment’s ability to meet present and future needs.

[ Please refer to the 1987 Report of the World Commission on Environment & Development (WCED): 'Our Common Future' - Chapter 2, Paragraph 1.]

This original definition in the 1987 WCED Report IS appropriate for India … and it must become the core definition at the heart of India’s National Sustainable Buildings Strategy !

A careful reading of the full definition makes it clear that there are Many Aspects to this intricate, open, dynamic and still evolving concept … the most important of which are:  Social, Economic, Environmental, Institutional, Political, and Legal.

It is a Fundamental Principle of Sustainability, and one of its Primary Values … that Implementation must be Synchronous, Balanced and Equitable across All Aspects of Sustainability.

The ‘Green Agenda’ merely considers Environmental Aspects of Sustainability … in isolation from all of the other Aspects !   This is a fatal flaw which must be avoided in the Proposed New Part 11 !!

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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3.   Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) for India !

Rather than Environmental Impact Assessment … surely the Proposed New Part 11: ‘Approach to Sustainability’ must now use, explain and discuss Sustainability Impact Assessment instead !?!

Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA)

A continual evaluation and optimization assessment – informing initial decision-making, or design, and shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life and termination, or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, economic, environmental, institutional, political and legal impacts on the synchronous, balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.

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4.   A Robust Legal Foundation for ‘Sustainable Human & Social Development’

Paragraph 4 (Chapter 2, 1987 WCED Report) states …

‘ The satisfaction of human needs and aspirations is the major objective of development.  The essential needs of vast numbers of people in developing countries – for food, clothing, shelter, jobs – are not being met, and beyond their basic needs these people have legitimate aspirations for an improved quality of life.  A world in which poverty and inequity are endemic will always be prone to ecological and other crises.  Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life.’

Trying to list the essential needs of people / the basic needs of all is a very difficult task … but it is work which has been on-going, at international level, since just after the Second World War.

The essential needs of people / the basic needs of all … are specified as being Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and are already fully described within the extensive framework of International Legal Rights Instruments.

Which is why, many years ago, SDI developed this definition for Sustainable Human & Social Development … in order:

  • to give this concept a robust legal foundation ;   and
  • (because of widespread confusion in media, political and academic circles) … to clearly establish that we are talking about sustainable human and social development, and not sustainable economic development, or any other type of development !

Sustainable Human & Social Development

Development which meets the responsible needs, i.e. the Human & Social Rights*, of this generation – without stealing the life and living resources from future generations … especially our children, and their children … and the next five generations of children.

*As defined in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

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5.   Climate Change Adaptation & Resilient Buildings in India ?

Atmospheric Ozone Depletion and Climate Change are mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11.  The important implications of these phenomena for Sustainable Building Design in India are not explained … at all.  Why not ?

To properly respond to these phenomena, both must be integrated into India’s National Sustainability Strategies & Policies.

At the very least … we strongly recommend that Design Guidance on Climate Resilient Buildings be immediately drafted.  This guidance must be appropriate for implementation in each of the different climatic regions of India.

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6.   A Sustainable Indian Built Environment which is Accessible for All !

Barrier Free is mentioned, here and there, in the Proposed New Part 11.  This is to be warmly welcomed and congratulated.  Under Social Aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development … this is an essential attribute of a Sustainable Built Environment !   However, no guidance on this subject is given to decision-makers or designers.  Why not ?

However, you should be aware that India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) on 1 October 2007.  For your convenience, I have attached copies of the Convention in English, Hindi and Tamil.

You should also be aware that, in December 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) published ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.  In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is directly linked to the U.N. Convention … almost like an umbilical cord.  The scope of this Standard currently covers public buildings.  As the Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … much standardization work remains to be finished at international level.

The correct term … Accessibility for All … has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance from another person should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.

In order to fulfil India’s legal obligations as a State Party to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … adequate Design Guidance on Accessibility must be included in the Proposed New Part 11, supported by ISO 21542.

In addition, the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) should immediately adopt ISO 21542 as the Indian National Standard on Accessibility for All … IS / ISO 21542.

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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7.   Fire Safety & Protection for All in Sustainable Indian Buildings ?

Yes … there is 1 mention of ‘fire safety’ and 40 other references to ‘fire’ in the Proposed New Part 11 … but no design guidance.  Why not ?

You should be aware that there is a fundamental conflict between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the current state-of-the-art in Fire Engineering Design.  As a good example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of air movement in that building.  On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice, and fire prevention officers in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.

In everyday practice, there is a vast chasm in understanding and communication between these two very different design disciplines.  As a result, serious compromises are being enforced on Sustainability Building Performance.  If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a Sustainable Building … it is the fire safety and protection which is being seriously compromised.

A range of critical fire safety issues (fatal, in the case of firefighters) are also arising with the Innovative Building Products and Systems being installed in Sustainable Buildings.

Because the emphasis is on pre-construction design ‘intent’ rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed and occupied building … all of these problems are being conveniently ignored, and they remain hidden from everybody’s view.

This must be addressed in the Proposed New Part 11.

[ I made many references to this issue during the FSAI Conferences in India ! ]

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C. J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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U.N. Disability Rights Convention – World Map of States Parties

2013-03-14:   The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the U.N. Headquarters Building in New York.  The Convention was opened for signature on 30 March 2007, when there were 82 Signatories to the Convention, 44 Signatories to its Optional Protocol, and 1 Ratification.  Historically, this is the highest number of signatories to a U.N. Convention on its opening day.  It is the first comprehensive Human Rights Treaty of the 21st Century.  It is also the first Human Rights Convention to be open for signature by regional integration organizations, e.g. the European Union (EU).  The Convention entered into force, as an International Legal Instrument, on 3 May 2008.

According to the United Nations … this Convention is intended as a Human Rights Instrument with an explicit social development dimension.  It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities, and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It clarifies and qualifies how all categories of rights apply to persons with disabilities and identifies areas where adaptations have to be made for persons with disabilities to effectively exercise their rights and areas where their rights have been violated, and where protection of rights must be reinforced.

I say … that most of the rights specified in this Convention are already contained in other long-established International Human Rights Instruments, e.g. rights to shelter, free movement, education, employment, voting, etc.  The critical issue for people with activity limitations has always been, and remains to this day … Lack of Accessibility … which prevents them from effectively and independently exercising their basic rights and fundamental freedoms as individual human beings.

Substantively … this is a United Nations Accessibility for All Rights Convention.

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The World Map below illustrates the situation, in October 2012, with regard to the very large numbers of States Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)

  • 154 Signatories to the Convention ;
  • 90 Signatories to the Optional Protocol ;
  • 124 Ratifications and Accessions to the Convention ;
  • 74 Ratifications and Accessions to the Optional Protocol.

Using the Map, it is simple to identify those ‘other’ countries (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) …

U.N. Disability Rights Convention Map - World Ratifications (October 2012)

Image size 2.64 MB – Click to enlarge.

Since October 2012 …

  • Singapore signed the Convention on 30 November 2012
  • Cambodia ratified the Convention on 20 December 2012
  • Albania ratified the Convention on 11 February 2013
  • Barbados ratified the Convention on 27 February 2013

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HOWEVER … far too many individuals and organizations seem to be content to just settle back and end this good news story at Ratification.  They fail to understand that this is only the beginning !

The real challenge ahead will be to ensure that the Convention is Properly Implemented.

The Target before every State Party is … Effective Accessibility for All !!

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Mainstream Good Design & Accessibility for All Signage ?

2013-03-06:   Further to an earlier Post, dated 30 November 2012 … on Sustainable Accessibility for All

Accessibility IS a Fundamental Human Right !

‘ For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community;  it is a blatant denial of their human rights.’

Relevant Human Environment (social – built – virtual - institutional) Factors … factors which are external, or extrinsic, to the context of a person’s life and living situation … include policies and standards, negative attitudes and stigma, lack of services, problems with service delivery, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility in the built environment and to electronic, information and communication technologies, lack of consultation and involvement, and an absence of reliable data and evidence.

Accessibility for All …

Take a really close look at the photograph below … and see a staircase which, in spite of all the legislation in the EU Member States, contravenes almost every accessibility-related design guideline.  It is far from being an unusual scene in our European Built Environment …

Staircase Egress - Unsafe, Difficult Accessibility !!

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-10-31. Click to enlarge.

Now, imagine the consequences of one, tiny slip …

Which is why our concern must be with Accessibility for All … which includes consciously thinking about children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and frail older people (not all older people !) … and how they use and interact with their surroundings.

In addition, however … our attention must also turn to the large numbers of people, in all of our societies, with health conditions which result in serious impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.  As a prime example, consider the Big-4 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s): Cardiovascular Diseases (e.g. heart attacks and stroke), Cancers, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Diseases.

These 4 NCD’s – targeted in a World Health Organization (WHO) Global NCD Campaign - share health risk factors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful alcohol use) … cause more than 36 million deaths annually (almost 80 % of deaths, from such diseases, occur in low and middle-income countries) … and result in a high proportion of disability (66.5 % of all years lived with disability in low and middle income countries).

NCD’s can limit one or more of a person’s major life and living activities … such as walking, eating, communicating, and caring-for-oneself.  Examples of common NCD-related impairments include paralysis due to stroke, and amputation as a result of diabetic neuropathy.

When Easily Assimilated Signage IS Essential in Buildings …

Good Architectural Design IS ‘intuitive and obvious’ for building users … design characteristics which are critical in the case of Fire Engineering Design.  However, what is intuitive and obvious in Ireland may not be so intuitive and obvious in Turkey … and what is intuitive and obvious in Europe will certainly not be intuitive and obvious in Africa, India, or China.

Architectural & Fire Engineering Design must, therefore, be adapted to Local conditions … culture, social need, etc., etc.

When a building is NOT ‘intuitive and obvious’ for the broad range of potential building users … easily assimilated signage IS essential …

International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ was published in December 2011, as a full standard.  In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is linked to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … almost like an umbilical cord.

The scope of ISO 21542 covers public buildings.  The Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … so much standardization work remains to be completed at international level.

Concerning Accessibility Symbols and Signs … reference should be made to ISO 21542: Clause 41 – Graphical Symbols … and on Pages 106, 107, 108, and 109 … the following will be found:

  • Figure 66 – Accessible Facility or Entrance ;
  • Figure 67 – Sloped or Ramped Access ;
  • Figure 68 – Accessible Toilets (male & female) ;
  • Figure 69 – Accessible Toilets (female) ;
  • Figure 70 – Accessible Toilets (male) ;
  • Figure 71 – Accessible Lift / Elevator ;
  • Figure 72 – Accessible Emergency Exit Route.

I use the word ‘accessibility’, and not ‘access’ … because Accessibility has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.

During the very long gestation of ISO 21542, an overwhelming consensus emerged in favour of using the term Accessibility for All … thereby sidestepping the thorny issue of different design philosophies which are described as being accessibility-related but, in practice, are limited and/or no longer fit-for-purpose.

'Accessibility for All' Symbol ?The Accessibility Symbol used throughout ISO 21542 is shown above.  I know that a small group of people from different countries worked very hard on this particular part of the standard.  My only contribution was in relation to the inclusion of Figure 72, concerning Fire Evacuation.

This ‘accessibility’ symbol is an attractive, modern and, of course, abstract representation of a concept … a person with an activity limitation using a wheelchair.  The symbol succeeds very well in communicating that concept.

However … as an Accessibility for All Symbol … encompassing people with other than functional impairments, e.g. hearing and visual impairments … and children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, frail older people … and people with the four main types of non-communicable disease discussed above … is this symbol, also, limited and no longer fit-for-purpose ??

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Proposed New Sign for 'Area of Rescue Assistance'

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Shown next, above, is the proposal for a new Area of Rescue Assistance Sign … which is contained in ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013).  While it is nice to finally see this Safety Sign appear in the mainstream of safety signage … the title being proposed for the sign and the explanatory texts which accompany it are very problematic …

  • The technical term being proposed – Evacuation Temporary Refuge – is too long and too difficult to understand ;
  • The explanatory texts which accompany this Sign are very confusing and misleading.

This problem has arisen because the people who drafted ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013) hadn’t a bull’s notion that ISO 21542 even existed !

In ISO 21542, we use the term Area of Rescue Assistance … which is easy for everybody to understand, including building users, building managers and firefighters, etc., etc.

We also explained, in ISO 21542, that a Place of Safety is a remote distance from the building … not anywhere inside the building !

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Mainstreaming Disability …

U.N. CRPD – Preamble

(g)  Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

As ‘disability’ moves closer towards … and is integrated and fully included in the ‘mainstream’ of sustainable community life and living … it is absolutely imperative that individuals and organizations who make up the Disability Sector become much more cohesive (far less fractious within) … that they begin to fully understand the practices and procedures of the mainstream … and actively and robustly engage with that mainstream.

It is ridiculous, for example, that a large amount of the Sector’s energy is still being diverted into meaningless meditations and endless tracts on whether it is ‘universal design’, or ‘design-for-all’, or ‘inclusive design’, or ‘facilitation design’, etc … when an entirely new design paradigm is being demanded by a world (our small planet when seen from the moon !), which is experiencing enormous levels of human poverty, natural resource shortages, human rights violations, and severe weather events.  The overriding priority must be ‘real’ implementation … Effective Accessibility for All !

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'Earthrise' from Apollo 14

Colour photograph – ‘Earthrise’ – taken from the Apollo 14 Spacecraft … showing a bright colourful Earth, in a dense black ‘sky’, rising above the pale surface of the Moon. Click to enlarge.

NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

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And … Effective Accessibility for All is but one component of …

‘Social Wellbeing for All in a Sustainable Built Environment’

Refer also to …

2004 Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing

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Update:  2013-05-31 …

While the wider international design community is working hard on developing an array of Accessibility Symbols to facilitate different health condition and impairment categories, and to suit different environmental situations, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … I recently encountered another interesting contribution …

Alternative Accessibility Symbol (USA-2011) - Functional Impairment

Click to enlarge. For more information: www.accessibleicon.org

Any comments ??

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Driving Harder & Deeper Into Sustainable Development !?!

2013-01-13:   The 13th … a lucky day !

As we drive harder and deeper (at least some of us anyway ?) towards a future of Sustainable Human & Social Developmentor are forcefully driven by the anthropogenic (man-made) pressures of Resource Shortages (e.g. water - food - energy) and Climate Change, in the case of millions of people living in poverty throughout the world … or are dragged screaming, which I fear will have to be the solution with the privileged classes in every society who are addicted to lavish and wasteful lifestyles and who show absolutely no interest in either Climate Change or Resource Shortages until they rear up and bite them in the ass (!!) … there is a desperate need for a more complex and precise language of Sustainability, which will give shape to the innovative trans-sectoral concepts and trans-disciplinary policy and decision-making support tools required for Tangible/’Real’ Sustainability & Climate Resilience Implementation.

At the time of writing, the Principal Challenge before us is …

Transforming Social Organization … the Ultimate Goal being to arrive quickly at a dynamic and harmonious balance between a Sustainable Human Environment and a flourishing, not just a surviving, Natural Environment … with the Overall Aim of achieving Social Wellbeing for All.

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Climate Change did not directly cause Hurricane Sandy, a severe weather event which hit the Caribbean and the East Coast of the USA during October 2012 … but it was a significant contributing factor.  Scenes like those in the photograph below will be experienced far more frequently in the future.

This is not Manhattan, in New York City … so, is the development shown below to be removed altogether … or renewed with the necessary and very costly construction of a massive system of flood protection measures ?   Not an easy choice.  Which choice would be more sustainable ?

However … WHEN, not IF … Average Global Temperatures rise above 1.5 degrees Celsius, many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will suffer a similar fate … permanently …

North-Eastern USA After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing a flooded/inundated coastal community, in north-eastern USA, after Hurricane Sandy. Click to enlarge.

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The Type of Lightweight Development in the foreground of the photograph below … damaged beyond repair or re-construction during Hurricane Sandy, is not Resilient … which is a different concept to Robust, or Robustness.

Notice the building in the background, on the left, which appears to have survived fully intact … why ??

North-Eastern USA After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing the destruction of beachfront buildings, in north-eastern USA, caused by Hurricane Sandy. It will be ridiculous, and the height of stupidity, to repair/replace buildings and infrastructure using similar methods of construction. Will Insurance Companies and Federal/State Authorities understand this ?? Click to enlarge.

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In complete contrast … the Type of Development, below, is more Resilient.  Furthermore, however, as a normal human reaction to decades of aggressive, but ultimately unsuccessful, political bullying and economic assault by the USA, the Social Fabric of Cuba is very strong … making this a Resilient Human Environment

Santiago de Cuba After Hurricane Sandy (October 2012)

Colour photograph showing the damage caused to a local community in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, by Hurricane Sandy. Click to enlarge.

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So … what is a Resilient Human Environment … particularly in the context of Sustainable Climate Change Adaptation ?

What do we mean by Transforming Social Organization ??

And … as we drive forward, harder and deeper … why is it critical that we practice a balanced, synchronous approach … across ALL Aspects of Sustainability … to Tangible Sustainability & Climate Resilience Implementation ???

Let us confront some more interesting new words and thought-provoking concepts …

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European Sustainable Development Network

2012 – ESDN Quarterly Report Number 26 - Umberto Pisano, Author

ESDN Quarterly Report Number 26, 2012

ESDN – ‘Resilience and Sustainable Development: Theory of Resilience, Systems Thinking & Adaptive Governance’

Click the Link Above to read and/or download a PDF File (2.17 Mb)

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Abridged Executive Summary

The term resilience originated in the 1970′s in the field of ecology from the research of C.S.Holling, who defined resilience as ‘a measure of the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables’.  In short, resilience is defined as ‘the ability of a system to absorb disturbances and still retain its basic function and structure’, and as ‘the capacity to change in order to maintain the same identity’.

Resilience can best be described by three crucial characteristics: (1) the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state or domain of attraction; (2) the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization; and (3) the ability to build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation.

In the need for persistence, we can find a first connection with sustainable development.  Sustainable development has the objective of creating and maintaining prosperous social, economic, and ecological systems.  Humanity has a need for persistence.  And since humanity depends on services of ecosystems for its wealth and security, humanity and ecosystems are deeply linked.  As a result, humanity has the imperative of striving for resilient socio-ecological systems in light of sustainable development.

Resilience thinking is inevitably systems thinking at least as much as sustainable development is.  In fact, ‘when considering systems of humans and nature (socio-ecological systems) it is important to consider the system as a whole.  The human domain and the biophysical domain are interdependent’.  In this framework where resilience is aligned with systems thinking, three concepts are crucial to grasp: (1) humans live and operate in social systems that are inextricably linked with the ecological systems in which they are embedded; (2) socio-ecological systems are complex adaptive systems that do not change in a predictable, linear, incremental fashion; and (3) resilience thinking provides a framework for viewing a socio-ecological system as one system operating over many linked scales of time and space.  Its focus is on how the system changes and copes with disturbance.

To fully understand resilience theory, the report focuses therefore on the explanation of a number of crucial concepts: thresholds, the adaptive cycle, panarchy, resilience, adaptability, and transformability.

As shown, humanity and ecosystems are deeply linked.  This is also the fundamental reason why to adopt the resilience-thinking framework is a necessity for governance.  The resilience perspective shifts policies from those that aspire to control change in systems assumed to be stable, to managing the capacity of socio–ecological systems to cope with, adapt to, and shape change.  It is argued that managing for resilience enhances the likelihood of sustaining desirable pathways for development, particularly in changing environments where the future is unpredictable and surprise is likely.

This exposes the strong need for Sustainable Development Governance to embrace resilience thinking.  It is not only about being trans-disciplinary and avoiding partial and one-viewpoint solutions; what is needed to solve today’s problems – and especially those linked to sustainable development – is a new approach that considers humans as a part of Earth’s ecosystems, and one in which policies can more effectively cope with, adapt to, and shape change.

In this scenario, the concept and key characteristics of so-called adaptive governance seem to be a practical means for societies to deal with the complex issues that socio-ecological systems are confronted with.  Therefore, adaptive governance is best understood as an approach that unites those environmental and natural resource management approaches that share some or all of the following principles: polycentric and multi-layered institutions, participation and collaboration, self-organization and networks, and learning and innovation.  Additionally, four interactive crucial aspects for adaptive governance are suggested: (1) to build knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics; (2) to feed ecological knowledge into adaptive management practices; (3) to support flexible institutions and multilevel governance systems; and,(4) to deal with external disturbances, uncertainty, and surprise.  Therefore, nine values toward a resilient world are also suggested: diversity, ecological variability, modularity, acknowledging slow variables, tight feedbacks, social capital, innovation, overlap in governance, and ecosystem services.

Finally, three examples analyse practical instances in terms of resilience: (1) the approach taken by the so-called climate change adaptation discourse; (2) the Kristianstad Water Vattenrike, a wetland in southern Sweden that showed problems with loss of wet meadows, decline of water quality, and a disappearing wildlife habitat; and 3) the Goulburn-Broken Catchment from the State of Victoria (Australia).  Some lessons can be drawn from these three cases.  From the first case, governance structures have direct implications for the level of flexibility in responding to future change as well as variation in local contexts.  Sensitivity to feedbacks relates both to the timing as well as where these feedbacks occur.  Therefore, learning is more likely if feedbacks occur soon relative to action, and if those most affected by feedbacks are those responsible for the action.  Additionally, the way in which a problem is conceptually framed determines the way in which responses are identified and evaluated and therefore influences the range of response characteristics.  Second, the example from Sweden revealed that (a) the imposition of a set of rules to protect an ecosystem from the outside will not ensure the natural qualities of a region will be preserved over time.  One size never fits all, and an understanding of local history and culture needs to be integrated into the management if local values are to be looked after; (b) for an organization to meaningfully deal with complexity at many scales, it needs to include representatives from each of these levels in the social network; (c) several organizations need to be prepared to contribute to a shared vision and build consensus and leadership – crucial components in adaptability and transformability.  Third, the Goulburn-Broken story demonstrates the critical importance of understanding the underlying variables that drive a socio-ecological system, knowing where thresholds lie along these variables, and knowing how much disturbance it will take to push the system across these thresholds.

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